Benzodiazepines are a type of medication commonly prescribed as anti-anxiety drugs, sedatives, and muscle relaxants. They have been used since the 1960s to treat a variety of conditions, including panic attacks, insomnia, muscle spasms, and seizures. Although effective at providing relief from these symptoms in the short term, benzodiazepines can be highly addictive if taken for long periods of time or in higher dosages than prescribed. Long-term use can lead to dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal symptoms when stopped. Benzo addiction is a very real danger, even for legally prescribed medication.
Benzo abuse is sweeping the United States at an unprecedented rate, and it doesn’t look to be slowing down. Considering how often benzos are both prescribed and misused, educating yourself on the risk of addiction is essential. If you’re taking benzos, are planning on getting a prescription from your doctor, or want to acquire them illegally for recreational use, you should locate a professional benzo addiction treatment program. It might just save your life. For more support, please reach out to Women’s Recovery today at 833.754.0554.
What Are Benzos?
Benzodiazepines (or “benzos”) are one of the most commonly prescribed pharmaceuticals in America today. These psychoactive drugs have been available for more than 60 years, so they are well-known and well-studied. Some of the better-known types of benzos are:
- Alprazolam (Xanax)
- Diazepam (Valium)
- Clorazepate (Tranxene)
- Clonazepam (Klonopin)
- Lorazepam (Ativan)
How Do Benzodiazepines Work?
Benzos are classified as a depressant. Their sedative effect is used to ease medical ailments under the supervision of a doctor. Much like barbiturates, benzodiazepine’s mechanism of action involves stimulating the brain’s neurotransmitters. In the case of benzos, the affected neurotransmitter is dopamine. Dopamine is responsible for sensations such as pleasure, motivation, and arousal. When dopamine is released in the brain, it feels like a chemical reward. When benzos are ingested, the brain releases far greater amounts of dopamine than normal. It’s this rush of feel-good chemicals that make benzos so highly addictive.
Why Are Benzodiazepines So Addictive?
Despite the initial hype, the medical community’s excitement over benzos as an innovative new drug soon gave way to grave concerns. It was clear that the pharmacokinetics of benzodiazepines were causing worrying dependency among users. While taking short-term benzos as prescribed by a medical doctor is considered an effective treatment for relevant conditions, prolonged periods of use can easily lead to an out-of-control addiction. A benzo habit can form in as little as six months.
Prolonged use of benzos not only causes the user to become more addicted over time but also builds up a tolerance in the body. Higher and higher doses are required to maintain the same effects throughout a long habit.
Side Effects of Benzo Addiction
The longer you take benzos, the more unpleasant side effects you’ll experience. But it doesn’t take long to start noticing them.
Short-Term Side Effects
Some of these more immediate effects can include:
- Blurred vision
- Nausea and vomiting
- Affected speech
- Shallow breathing
- Difficulty thinking clearly
- Stomach cramps
These short-term side effects can be challenging, but they worsen as you continue to use benzos.
Long-Term Side Effects
The long-term side effects of benzos are even more concerning than the short-term. Over long periods of time, these drugs can negatively affect the user’s physical and mental health, with lasting adverse effects on brain function. Some long-term side effects are:
- Sleep issues, such as insomnia or fatigue
- Body tremors
- Memory and concentration problems
- Irritable demeanor and mood swings
- Increased anxiety
Ironically, many of the ill effects of long-term use mimic the symptoms of the conditions benzos were designed to treat.
Benzo Use Among Women
Women are some of the most high-risk users of benzos. Women are far more likely to be prescribed psychotropic drugs (including benzos) than men. These prescriptions are often recommended to treat conditions such as menopause and family-related stress.
The Telltale Signs Of Benzodiazepine Abuse
Benzo abuse may be incredibly common, but you might not even realize that you or someone you know has already formed a habit. So what are the warning signs? If you’re concerned that a loved one may be abusing benzodiazepine, keep an eye out for the following telltale symptoms:
- Slurred speech
- Erratic and hostile moods
- Difficulty with focus and memory
- Constricted pupils
If you’ve been taking benzos for a prolonged period of time and have been experiencing similar symptoms, it’s crucial that you seek help as soon as possible.
Seek Treatment for Benzo Addiction at Women’s Recovery
You may be hesitant to give up benzodiazepines since withdrawal symptoms can be incredibly unpleasant. It’s important to work with your doctor and chosen treatment facility to gradually wean yourself off benzos in order to make the experience a little easier. Remember: many people have kicked their unhealthy addictions. You can do the same with the proper treatment and start living your life to its full potential.
At Women’s Recovery, we are committed to helping those with benzo addiction through their recovery. We offer a range of services, including:
- Outpatient treatment
- Sober living services
- Trauma treatment
To learn more about our services, please contact our team online or call today at 833.754.0554.